PJEFC LIBRARY MONTHLY BOOK REVIEW – MARCH 2021
The Case for Christ
By Lee Strobel
485 pages, Zondervan
Goodreads rating: 4.15 out of 5
(this month’s review was written and contributed by a member of our PJEFC library.)
I was going through a dark tunnel in my spiritual journey. After being a Christian for four decades, my doubts finally overtook me, no thanks to our three sons who had wandered off.
My husband and I had done our best to raise them to fear and love God. It began so well but gradually, they lost interest in spiritual matters. The 24-year-old young man, who 20 years ago wanted Jesus to come out of his heart so that he could hug Him, was firing questions at me about Christ and the Bible – questions that I couldn’t answer. That was our eldest. The other two boys were equally critical of their faith, whatever that was left. They challenged my beliefs. My responses were weak. And then, their questions became my questions too. Did Jesus really walk the earth 2,000 years ago? Can I believe the Bible when it was compiled by mere humans? Why is homosexuality a sin when it is a monogamous relationship borne out of true love, and it doesn’t hurt anyone else? Indeed, why? I realised then that I had not really think critically of my beliefs. Hey, I belonged to the Baby Boomer generation, who were generally more compliant and unquestioning – what we could not understand, we tended to “accept by faith”. Yes, I had had questions and doubts but I had brushed them aside, telling myself I needed to have faith, because “without faith, it is impossible to please God.”
So, here I was, with questions that I had suppressed rising to the fore.
In God’s providence, The Case for Christ landed in my hand, thanks to my Gen-Z niece. This was the book that illuminated the dark spiritual tunnel and guided me till I emerged into the bright, warm light. The book helped solidify my faith; it assured me that what I had put my faith in all along – Jesus and the Bible – was true and trustworthy.
The Case for Christ was written by award-winning journalist Lee Strobel, who also has a Master of Studies in Law degree from prestigious Yale Law School. An atheist seriously searching for truth, Strobel spent 21 months criss-crossing the US interviewing 13 leading experts, scholars and scientists in their disciplines that included archaeology, psychology, theology, linguistics, philosophy and medicine.
The impressive credentials of the 13 interviewees will raise your eyebrows. Strobel lists their lengthy academic qualifications and reputable work at the start of each chapter to remind readers that these people’s opinions carried a lot of weight.
Using his skill honed by years of experience as a hard-nosed legal editor of The Chicago Tribune, Strobel tackles his subjects like a keen-eyed sleuth looking for evidence to build his case. In fact, the entire book revolves around “evidence”, which he cleverly manoeuvred his interviewees to lay bare.
Strobel’s writing style is that of a typical newspaper journalist; hence, this book is easy to read and understand, unlike those academic books that are harder to wrap your head around. The book is replete with riveting stories of the court cases he had covered, and which he masterfully links to his subject matter to drive home his points.
The book is divided into three sections. The first seeks to establish the trustworthiness of the Bible, since it is the foundation document of the Christian faith. If it is proven to be unreliable or flawed, the entire Christian faith will crumble to dust. Besides getting the experts’ views on the Bible, Strobel also examines corroborating evidence from external sources, such as the famed Jewish historian Josephus and Tacitus, and archaeological evidence.
Having established that the Bible is a credible document, Strobel zooms in on the central figure of the Christian faith – Jesus Christ. In this second section, Strobel examines his historicity and divinity. Did he really walk this earth 2,000 years ago? Where in the Bible did he claim to be God? If yes, was he delusional? Bonus question – how can a loving God send people to hell?
Assured by the compelling evidence that Jesus is a historical figure and the Scripture portions that assert His deity, Strobel concludes his book by examining the evidence for Jesus’ bodily resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection is considered the linchpin of the Christian faith. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, His mission would have failed. As the apostle Paul says, “…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.… we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor. 15:17 & 19).
Again, the experts threw down the unflinching evidence of Jesus’ resurrection and His appearance to His many followers.
The book ends happily with Strobel’s testimony. In the face of the overwhelming evidence for the case of Christ, he finally capitulated and surrendered his life to Jesus.
As stated earlier, this book revolves around evidence. It is an inquiry of the mind, and not centred on emotional experiences.
As Strobel writes in his concluding chapter: “There were no lightning bolts, no audible replies, no tingly sensations. I know that some people feel a rush of emotion at such a moment; as for me, however, there was something else that was equally exhilarating: there was the rush of reason (emphasis mine).”
As such, I feel The Case for Christ is very much a book for the thinker. The saving grace is that Strobel documents his “investigative report” in an engaging narrative format that will appeal to the not-so-intellectuals.
Further, this book seems to be for the serious seeker – whether seeking the truth of the existence of Jesus or like me, seeking assurance of His divinity. It has certainly cleared my many doubts and helped me to confidently address the same questions raised by non-Christian friends. In fact, I had the opportunity to explain to an Alpha course participant (I was a facilitator) why the Bible can be trusted, e.g. the New Testament books were written by the first-hand witnesses (the disciples who spent 3 years with Jesus, e.g. John, Matthew and Peter) and disciples of the first-hand witnesses, such as Luke and Mark.
I will therefore heartily recommend it, especially to Christians with a heart for evangelism. My only concern is that the thickness of the book (367 pages) might intimidate readers, especially Malaysians who are generally not avid readers. Thankfully, there is an abridged version (Student Edition) that could be read in one sitting. If I have my way, I will make this distilled version compulsory reading for all believers.
I had one question, though. Didn’t Strobel, an avowed atheist, question the existence of a creator first before jumping straight into investigating Christ? And did he examine the other religions? Regardless, I shall always be grateful to him for undertaking the 21-month journey to investigate the Christian faith and compiling his materials into such an absorbing, compelling book.
* The targeted readers of this review are Christians.